Indian Police Need Overhaul, Says Human Rights Report

A human rights group has said that Indian police, poorly trained and overworked, haul up people illegally, torture and kill suspects and decline to probe offences committed by the politically powerful.

According to a new report from Human Rights Watch, an overhaul is needed in the Indian police to elevate it to international benchmark of policing. It means large investments needed for training, the recruitment of new personnel and the repeal of outdated laws.

After 26/11 attacks, the urgency for police reforms has gone up even more. The newly elected Indian government promised police reform, but previous governments have made similar pledges over the decades and failed to deliver.

“India is modernizing rapidly, but the police continue to use their old methods: abuse and threats,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “It’s time for the government to stop talking about reform and fix the system.”

In the report are details of specific cases of police abuse such as: a man accused of rape died in custody and police then charged the rape victim’s family with his murder to cover up their own misconduct; a man said he fainted after being bashed up with wood sticks by police, who then hung him upside down and poured water into his mouth and nose.

KPS Gill, a former police chief of Punjab state, said that the problem was wider than just the police force. With a shortage of judges and many criminal cases delayed for years, the entire criminal justice system needs to be fixed, he said.

“The resources in the country are not that large and there are unlimited areas crying for attention, so (officials) have to make a selection of what they would spend how much on,” he said. “Policing doesn’t figure very high on the list.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 80 police officers and 60 victims of police abuse as well as experts and activists, documenting routine abuse and corruption among the nation’s police force.

Police officers spoke of carrying out “encounters,” where they kill a suspect and claim the victim died during a shootout, the report said.

Police often detain people and torture false confessions out of them, and file false charges at the request of local politicians, the report said.

Overworked police often refuse to open cases filed by the poor, the marginalized and those of lower castes, while they routinely dismiss allegations against politically powerful criminals, the report said.

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